Exercise can alleviate dry, itchy eyes, new study finds

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Tear secretion and tear film stability have been found to increase after an aerobic workout, providing relief for dry, itchy eyes, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo.

The study, published in the Experimental Eye Research Journal, examined the differential response to a single bout of aerobic exercise between athletes and non-athletes without dry eyes. Researchers measured tear secretion, tear film stability, visual acuity (VA), and stereoacuity. The study also evaluated the effect of gender and the duration of exercise.

Fifty-two university students aged 18 to 25 years were divided into two groups—athlete and non-athlete—to participate in exercising on a treadmill. Measurements were taken in the order of distance VA, stereopsis, non-invasive tear break-up time (TBUT), and phenol red thread test, at baseline and after exercising, according to the study.

While participants in the athlete group showed the largest increase, according to researchers, all participants experienced a raise in tear quantity and tear film stability after the workout.

In addition, researchers didn’t find any influence from gender in the differences in the tear function measures in either group after the exercise. However, they did conclude that physical fitness and the length of exercise may be critical in improving tear function through aerobic exercise.

“With so much of our activity tied to screen usage, dry eye symptoms are becoming increasingly common,” said Heinz Otchere, a PhD candidate in vision science at Waterloo and co-author of the study. “Instead of having to use eye drops or other alternative treatments, our study aimed to determine if remaining physically active can be an effective preventative measure against dryness.”

These study results give integrative practitioners yet another reason to promote exercise to their patients, especially if their patients are suffering from dry, itchy eyes.